Hope is not blind optimism. It's not pollyannaish, either. As a leader, strengthening the character trait of hope, includes developing three components:
1. a belief that tomorrow will be better than today
2. a sense of agency that you can make that happen
3. the development of pathways to overcome obstacles
Instead of quiet firing, take these steps
Step 1: The belief that tomorrow will be better than today means you must create a goal.
• What are you aiming for?
• What is your target with this employee?
• How will you know when you get there?
Many of us stay stuck, head down, in the mess of today. But we must lift our heads and look to the future if we are to develop a sense of hope.
• What's the potential of this employee?
• How can things be different if we get over this hump we're in right now?
Creating a visual image and a visceral feeling of what could be a different three weeks, three months or three years from now allows you to see where you're going and consider the opportunity to communicate that to the employee.
TRY THIS: Create a positive vision of the future for this employee and your relationship with this employee.
Step 2: Identify your strengths, skills and unexpressed potential
Having a sense of agency is about being an agent of change and starts with yourself. Being an agent of change means you believe you can author your life. You can write, create and develop the type of leader you want to be and the impact you want on your team and create that ripple throughout the people you work with.
It might also be that you create a belief that the employee has agency - that they too can be an agent of change in how they engage with other people and those around them.
When we become agents of change in our lives, our organizations, and in the way we interact with each other we are creating rather than reacting to what's happening. We create new experiences, including ways of interacting, ways of managing our emotions and developing engagement in our teams. As a result, we build a different experience not just for ourselves but for everyone involved.
TRY THIS: Develop a list of existing skills and what you need to learn to be the best leader possible for this employee. For example:
• I'm great at role modelling, skilled in the needs of our clients, and have an excellent manager to whom I can ask questions.
• It would be helpful if I understood how to manage my emotions during conflict and get better at communicating even when it feels icky.
Step 3: Develop a plan for growth
The third step in becoming a hopeful leader is to develop multiple pathways to reach your goal, understanding that on those paths, there are obstacles to be overcome.
An Olympian knows this. A child learning to walk knows this, and so does anyone who's had to pull out multiple rows of a stitching project. We don't learn by being perfect. Bumps along the way teach us the ways, and need, to get back up.
With a problem employee, it means that although you might need to include a form of discipline, that's not the only thing you need to do.
• You might need to ask them to change their behaviour.
• You might consider additional training that might be required.
• Shifting teams might be a step in helping them develop better relationships.
Also, what steps will you take to be a better leader who leads with courage and integrity? What are the multiple pathways that will help you deal with your insecurities, and develop the skills to have difficult conversations and overcome your fear of hurting someone or dealing with difficult people?
TRY THIS: Create your personal plan for your leadership growth and development.
• Watch a training session on dealing with emotions during conflict.
• Complete daily self-reflective exercises to help you understand your resistance and feelings and become more intentional about leading with integrity.
• Ask your leader to help you develop your leadership skills
Activating hope helps you to lead with integrity
When you're stuck, you can't see an employee's potential. You don't believe you can create change, so you don't develop the pathways. And so, instead of tomorrow being better than today, it worsens. The way to change that is to become hopeful with a plan.
Start by envisioning an engaged team. See your team as amazing, working well together and being their best. Then, see yourself as a leader who can create that vision and lead with integrity. Finally, create your plan and make that happen.
Create a sense of hope, and you will lead with integrity and quietly create a team of engaged employees.
Leadership Development Coach and author Kathy Archer provides ongoing training to grow women leaders in Canada's Non-Profit Organizations. Kathy's membership site, The Training Library, offers affordable, relevant, and practical monthly content to keep leaders engaged and excited, expanding their leadership capacity and deepening their personal growth.